Movies to watch this week at the cinema: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Colossal, and more
Out on Friday, May 19
Charlie Hunnam leads a medieval mishmash. Anne Hathaway faces her monster. Rooney Mara falls for a RAF pilot. Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Colossal, Snatched, The Secret Scripture, La Strada, Machines, and Spaceship.
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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Telescopic crash-zooms, freeze frames, supporting geezers named Kung Fu Georgie, Mike the Spike and Goosefat Bill… if there were any doubt that this is Guy Ritchie’s fast, loose take on the King Arthur legend, then having the natural-born monarch address a female warrior as “honey tits” clears the matter up.
Ritchie’s flippant folklore flimflam opens with Mordred’s (Rob Knighton) army marching on Camelot, the ground shuddering under the stomps of elephants so enormous they could gobble Peter Jackson’s oliphants as bar snacks. Not that this CG prologue leaves much of an imprint, playing out like Zack Snyder’s offcuts as it moves the pieces into place: the king, Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana), is struck down, and his brother, Vortigern (Jude Law), embarks upon a reign of fear.
One itsy-bitsy problem: Pendragon’s baby son, the rightful king, has been sneaked to safety; a machine-gun montage shows him growing up on the mean streets of Londinium. But not long after he’s filled out, beautifully, into Charlie Hunnam, a scar-faced, golden-toothed David Beckham orders him to take his turn at trying to free the mighty sword Excalibur from a boulder. He succeeds, is thereby identified as Vortigern’s enemy, and is sentenced to death. Then shit proper kicks off…
Painted in the same blue-grey palette as Ritchie’s movies and similarly eager to jazz everything up, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is not without its moments, many of them involving the director’s old mucker Law giving it supersized sneer with a side of snide.
Arthur plunging alone into the Darklands – a blackly fertile isle inhabited by all manner of beast and fowl – to harness Excalibur’s power is like Luke visiting Dagobah by way of Pandora. Meanwhile, a guerrilla attempt on Vortigern’s life flaunts the geographical range, eye-in-sky choreography and ground-level torque that distinguished ’s madcap climactic chase.
Mainly, though, this is a tonal misfire, its characters cut down by a blitzkrieg of whip pans, CGI and thunderous percussion. And with Ritchie again rummaging in his increasingly threadbare bag of tricks, the result is a movie more jaundiced than jaunty. There’s a thin line between visionary and hodgepodge, and it’s a line that King Arthur crosses and re-crosses with an abandon that rivals Hunnam’s accent sliding from Cockney to Californian and back again.
The plan is to make a total of six King Arthur movies, with Warner Bros hoping for a fantasy epic to rival , , the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its own / franchise. This is a wobbly start, suggesting there needs to be plenty of meetings round tables to ensure a second instalment is forged stronger and sharper.
THE VERDICT: Hunnam handles the fist and sword fights better than the accent in a medieval mishmash that’s rarely magic.
Director: Guy Ritchie; Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Annabelle Wallis; Theatrical release: May 19, 2017
Subtlety isn’t something you expect from monster movies, but that’s not Colossal’s only surprise. Playing like a mumblecore Godzilla, it follows Anne Hathaway’s recovering alcoholic Gloria as she returns to her hometown after losing her job in NYC and being kicked out by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens).
After a night drinking at the bar belonging to old friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), Gloria wakes to the news that a giant monster tore through Seoul the night before. Blanket news coverage follows, and Gloria discovers she has a special psychic connection to the horned behemoth – when she walks through a particular plot in the park, she dictates its movements.
Spanish writer/director Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes, Extraterrestrial) is known for skewing genres, and Colossal is no different. If you’re expecting Pacific Rim 2, be advised – the modest special effects are adequate rather than mind-blowing, but the characters here have much more depth than your usual stomp-fodder. Hathaway is superb as Gloria, maintaining likeability without trivialising her issues, while Sudeikis gets to play dimensions beyond his usual affable schtick.
It won’t be for everyone, and moments are sure to be divisive. But there’s plenty of substance to chew on here, and enough kaiju carnage to puncture any potential kooky overload. Smashing.
THE VERDICT: A defiantly indie take on a traditionally super-sized genre, with strong turns from Hathaway and Sudeikis.
Director: Nacho Vigalondo; Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens; Theatrical release: May 5, 2017
Full of raunchy, girl-powered fun, Amy Schumer’s second big-screen outing is no Trainwreck. But it’s no train wreck, either. A mum-and-me twist on the buddy movie sees Schumer’s flakey screw-up Emily and her super-cautious mum Linda (a wry and understated Goldie Hawn) kidnapped on an Ecuador vacation.
Chockful of Schumer’s trademark ‘ladyjerk’ schtick, its early scenes linger on her loser-life and man-hungry antics. So director Jonathan Levine (creator of quirky lad-coms like The Night Before), has to rattle through the bungles-in-the-jungle storyline at speed, as the pair become the moving targets of a ruthless gang boss. Rather than action thrills, their violent encounters and inept escapes go for broad, sketch-comedy yuks, though Schumer can’t deliver the slapstick that made similar odd-coupler The Heat sizzle.
But where it lacks Judd Apatow-style big heart, there’s breezy black comedy for compensation. Revelling in casual killings and gross-out gags galore (everything from rogue tits to tapeworm removal), it’s an unabashedly brash comedy, despite the obligatory mother-daughter emotional journey. Hawn gets far too few chances to show her comedy chops, though Ike Barinholtz’s agoraphobic mama’s-boy sibling is a hoot. But Schumer, fearlessly game for anything, pulls the film through like a plough-horse.
THE VERDICT: Goldie doesn’t glitter, but Schumer shines in a hit-and-miss kidnapping comedy that favours farce over action.
Director: Jonathan Levine; ¬Starring: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Joan Cusack; Theatrical release: May 19, 2017
The Secret Scripture
With its twin narrators, decades-straddling story and backdrop of misogyny, Sebastian Barry’s 2008 novel hardly lends itself to adaptation.
Small wonder then that Jim Sheridan’s first Irish movie since The Boxer has trouble unpicking its mysteries, opting for a romantic soap that sees Rooney Mara’s heroine face ostracism after falling for Jack Reynor’s RAF pilot in ’40s Sligo.
Director: Jim Sheridan; Starring: Rooney Mara, Aidan Turner, Theo James; Theatrical release: May 5, 2017
This 1954 movie catapulted Fellini to international fame – along with its star, his wife Giulietta Masina. In provincial Italy, strongman Zampanò (Anthony Quinn) touts his act, aided by his waif-like companion (Masina).
She endures his abuse until she’s captivated by a tightrope walker (Richard Basehart). The triangle plays out in Fellini’s favourite key of bittersweet sentimentality, life as a tragicomic circus.
Director: Federico Fellini; Starring: Anthony Quinn, Giulietta Masina, Richard Basehart; Theatrical release: May 5, 2017
Rahul Jain’s doc, winner of Sundance’s cinematography gong, captures the seemingly endless toil of textile-factory workers in India. Despite the constant clanking, there’s no doubt these labourers are the real machines of the title, enduring inhumane environments and maddening monotony to earn a petty wage.
While their situation feels futile, the film is almost poetic in posing important questions.
Director: Rahul Jain; Theatrical release: May 5, 2017
Between Aldershot’s suburbs and the stars, outsider-chic bezzies get wasted, talk shit and make out in Alex Taylor’s trippy teenage daydream of a film. Immersed in his leads’ fantasies and humdrum realities, Taylor makes fresh work of youth-pic escape longings.
The plot gets shaggy, but there’s heart and punk-art style in the mix, all synced to a suitably dazed ’n’ confused dream-pop soundtrack.
Director: Alex Taylor; Starring: Alexa Davies, Steven Elder, Lara Peake; Theatrical release: May 5, 2017